“It is the Lord!”
This was the cry of St. John when he saw Jesus standing on the shore at the Sea of Tiberius in the days after the Resurrection.
For me these words get us close to the “essence” of Easter. We hear the sense of wonder, all the amazement that the disciples felt — their joy when they realized the Gospel’s promises are true.
This joy is what God wants for every one of us.
God created us out of love and he created us to share in his love. His love is the force that moves stars and the planets. And his love gives us our identity. We are loved by God. This is who we are.
Joy is knowing that we are loved by God. And we find that joy in finding Jesus.
Joy is more than gladness, it is more than simply being happy. Joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ — who died and came to life, who won the victory over evil and sin.
Christian joy is the joy of salvation — the astonished feeling of knowing that Jesus has freed us from sin and saved us from death and that he goes with us now in the journey of our life.
We have joy because Jesus is with us. Again we hear the amazement in the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always! … The Lord is near!”
So our joy is always connected to our hope. We could say that Christian joy and hope are two sides of the same coin.
Our Christian hope gives our life a direction, a goal. We have hope because Jesus has risen from the dead.
In hope we know that we will rise as Jesus did and that we will join him one day in heaven. So hope tells us our destination. And when we know where we are going, the journey has meaning. Our life has a purpose, what we do has meaning.
Hope does not give us a precise road map. We do not know exactly where this road is going to take us. But we do know that Jesus goes with us and that he will never abandon us.
One of the saints said, “All the way to heaven is heaven because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’”
Heaven for us begins right here on earth — when we begin to follow Jesus, when we begin to seek the kingdom, that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Our life begins again when we meet Jesus —when we feel his love and his tender mercy; when we begin to trust in his will for our lives.
More and more, I believe we need to simplify our spiritualities — we need to get back to Jesus. If we do not know him, we need to meet him. If we feel we do not know him well enough, we need to seek his face again.
When we know Jesus, we want to imitate his virtues in our own lives. We want to purify ourselves from selfishness and sin and everything that keeps us from being more like him.
When we know Jesus, we want to live as he did — with compassion and mercy for every person, who is a brother or a sister, as a child of God, made in his image.
When we know Jesus, we feel his desire to change the world — to give homes to the homeless and food to the hungry, to visit the prisoner and welcome the stranger; we want to defend the most vulnerable — the child in the womb, the elderly and disabled.
Jesus is “why” — for who we are and everything we do.
And the joy we know in loving Jesus must be shared.
We are called to be missionaries of joy and servants of hope. To our friends, to our families; in school and at work. We cannot keep our joy bottled up inside us. We need to share our joy — or we risk losing it. To keep it, we need to give it away.
We need to show the world that the Gospel is true, that Jesus is alive. And we do that by the way we live and by the way we love.
We are not Christians because our parents were, or because our ancestors always have been. We are Christians because we have met Jesus, who has opened our eyes and set our hearts free to believe, “It is the Lord.”
Pray for me during this Easter season, and I will be praying for you. My prayer is that we may all open our hearts in a new way to the joy of the Resurrection.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to accompany us along the road to heaven. May she guide us so that when we reach our destination, we will hear the words that Jesus promised us: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. … Come, share your master’s joy.”